A Prescription for Shareholder Diversification
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Holmes Report

A Prescription for Shareholder Diversification

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. engaged Fleishman-Hillard to quickly and efficiently attract as shareholders long-term, committed and suitable individual investors.

Paul Holmes


Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. engaged Fleishman-Hillard to quickly and efficiently attract as shareholders long-term, committed and suitable individual investors.  The proprietary Propensity to Invest model developed by Fleishman-Hillard Research and the agency’s experience was applied to increasing Bristol’s individual ownership by 25.3 million shares in 14 months at a fraction of a cent per share.


Recognizing the growing role stocks play in families’ financial planning, Bristol-Myers Squibb set out to call attention to its shares as an investment of choice among the most attractive segment of the individual investor base – those who are in a position to make substantial investments and hold them over time.  These investors can be an important component of a company’s shareholder base, providing ownership stability and commitment that can offset the volatility of institutional investors.  And since shareholders make good customers – and vice versa – building an individual shareholder base can support the company’s business objectives.

Starting in 1999, Bristol-Myers Squibb, working with Fleishman-Hillard, addressed these targeted individual investors in two ways – indirectly, through a research-based nationwide mailing to the brokers who advise them, and directly, through presentations to investors at events sponsored by the National Association of Investors Corporation, which educates investors and hosts national and regional meetings where committed individual investors congregate.


  • Increase Bristol-Myers Squibb holdings among committed, long-term, suitable individual investors.
  • Reach far-flung individual investors cost-effectively.


  • Individual investors
  • Stockbrokers


Fleishman-Hillard employed its proprietary Propensity to Invest Index to determine the demographic and geographic areas in which to concentrate its outreach to individual investors with the investment characteristics desired by Bristol: long term, substantial and committed.  Preparing that index required extensive analysis of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s existing shareholder base and national investor data to determine where investors would be most likely to buy shares in Bristol-Myers Squibb when its investment characteristics were brought to their attention.  Focus groups were convened to test how best to present the investment messages in direct mail packets for the brokers and graphics for the company’s presentations and booth at NAIC events.


Tell Bristol-Myers Squibb’s investment story to individual investors directly by leveraging National Association of Investors Corporation activities, including its annual Congress and Expo, its regional Investor Fairs and publications like Better Investing and Investors’ Information Report.  

Present Bristol-Myers Squibb’s investment story to stockbrokers, who are the trusted advisers individuals turn to for help in assessing investment options.

Employ Propensity to Invest index for maximum shareholder attraction and efficiency.  


In 1999-2000 Fleishman-Hillard executed its plan by delivering two substantial mailings to nearly 21,000 brokers nationwide and told its story directly to more than 6,000 individual investors attending NAIC events.  Because many of those event attendees were gathering information on behalf of investment clubs, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s investment story effectively reached a substantially larger audience.  The company also took advantage of NAIC publications to reach its total membership of more than 750,000 investors.   

The centerpiece for the broker mailings was a skillfully designed, colorful, information-rich two-page fact sheet.  It was focus-group tested by brokers to make sure it effectively enabled the trusted advisers to walk through conversations with appropriate clients.  The laminated fact sheets – to give them presence on the desktop and staying power in the brokers’ files – arrived in attention-getting envelopes designed to stand out in the average 18-inch stack of mail that lands on brokers’ desks daily.  Fleishman-Hillard identified appropriate recipients of the fact sheets through extensive analysis of brokerage firms, geographic distribution of current Bristol-Myers shareholders, and the Propensity to Invest Index, among other steps.  Results from the spring mailing were used to refine the second-phase mailing.

Graphics from the fact sheets were adapted for the booths Bristol-Myers Squibb sponsored at national and regional NAIC events.  Determination of which Fairs to attend in part rested on the Propensity to Invest Index and other analysis carried out for the broker mailing in addition to assessment of the impact of the events themselves.  The intention was to create wherever possible a “push-pull” situation in which individual investors would ask their brokers about Bristol-Myers Squibb and the brokers would be well versed in the investment story as a result of the mailing.  

Fleishman-Hillard’s plan:

  • Targeted only substantial, suitable long-term investors employing a broker-tested, multipurpose fact sheet
  • Coordinated its mailing with the strategic use of the NAIC membership and convention
  • Maximized results with the Propensity to Invest index


The targeted audience increased holdings by 25.3 million shares at a cost considerably less than $0.01 per share, compared with 1.2 million shares in a similar but non-targeted audience.
Changes in shareholdings at retail-investor-oriented firms targeted for the fact sheet mailings and at a similar “control group” of firms which don’t receive the mailing represent the key measurement in the individual investor program for Bristol-Myers Squibb.  In a dynamic investing environment, with competitive, regulatory, economic and international influences bombarding both investors and shareholder-owned companies, the establishment of test and control groups distinguished by whether their members receive specific materials constitutes a “laboratory” in which results can be compared.  In the first mailing, regional and national brokerage firms in the test group increased ownership of Bristol-Myers Squibb stock by 8.3 million shares compared with a 204,000-share decline in the control group’s aggregate holdings.  In the second phase, the test group firms added 17 million shares while firms in the control group expanded their holdings only by 1.4 million shares.  In both mailings, period-to-period tracking in the test group showed stretches of steady share accumulation compared with more erratic patterns among firms in the control group.  Moreover, during a particularly challenging investment period for Bristol-Myers Squibb which coincided with part of the second phase of the program, the test group continued to add shares at a fairly robust rate while the control group’s rate of increase tapered off.

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